In The No Rules Sketch Show, written by Ashley Nicole Black, Rick Foucheux, Michael Malarkey, Joe Mallon, Brian Sutow, and Gray West, there really are no rules. Everyone and everything is fair game to the delightful cast of eight, from Julie Andrews to the Redskins to Fleshlights (if you don’t know what those are, just ask the droll Kaitlin Kemp). The No Rules Theatre Company, performing at Signature Theatre, serves up an evening of entertainment skillfully directed by Brian Sutow that evokes what it would be like if Saturday Night Live were actually consistently funny. Sutow (who is also the head writer) has a show that works due to a mixture of both technical and comedic talent. The transitions between skits are seamless, thanks in part to Zachary Dalton’s lighting design and Jesse Free’s impeccable timing as the lighting board operator. Of course, the lighting also enhances the actual skits, often utilizing fun pops of pinks, blues, and oranges as well as traditional warm yellows.
Sound Designer Christopher Baine did a fantastic job of contributing to the ambience of the show with unobtrusively appropriate music from the kooky to the more mainstream coming on and cutting off at precisely the right moments.
Collin Ranney’s scene design is low key, with an unfinished wooden wall reminiscent of a basement with two entrances where the actors charge on and offstage. A TV monitor hangs on the wall displaying graphics that change with each skit. The casual scenery works well, especially paired with Sierra Banack’s prop design which includes everything from versatile stools and tables that are utilized throughout the show to fake plants and a rhythmic gymnastics ribbon that appears suddenly at the most opportune time. Ranney is also the costume designer, outfitting the actors in regular everyday clothes of blacks and whites, except for a few instances of male shirtlessness and pantlessness. A few accessories are occasionally added to some characters (such as a hilarious pair of Ariana Grande cat ears) but they are never overdone or heavily relied upon by the actors.
Which brings us to the true heart of the show, the actors themselves. The cast is cohesive, upbeat, and appears to be having just as much fun as the audience. Everyone seems to play off each other equally well, although the men overall seem to be a little one note compared to the versatility of the ladies. Sherry Berg (Sherry) and Angela Miller (Angela) gave especially notable performances. Berg’s Ariana Grande impersonation, complete with an over-the-top baby voice, was one of the highlights of the show. Miller reminds one of Cecily Strong (of SNL and White House Correspondent Dinner fame), not only in looks but in stellar comic timing and perfect deadpan.
Lisa Hodsoll (Lisa) sparkles with enthusiasm and great accents. Kaitlin Kemp (Kaitlin) takes the dirty material she is given in stride, but it would have been nice to see her given a greater variety of things to do.
Jamie Smithson (Jamie) is the epitome of goofy boyish charm and performs much of the show’s physical comedy. He is often paired with Joshua Morgan (Joshua) who also tackles the more physical components of the show, including a ridiculous (in a good way!) shirtless dance. Morgan appears to be having so much fun that he frequently cracks himself up which is especially noticeable against some of the other actors’ straight faced commitment to the scenes.
Rounding out the cast are Joe Mallon (Joe) and Richard Pelzman (Rich). Mallon is an endearingly self-assured presence with a cheeky Ricky Gervais-esque grin. Pelzman usually plays a world weary and tolerant authority figure in the various sketches which definitely suits his booming voice and imposing physical stature.
This show is characterized by its brisk pacing, however 90 minutes with no intermission is quite a long time for an audience to sit without a break, no matter how entertained they are. This intimate black box theater allows audience members to bring in drinks purchased from the bar in the lobby and an intermission would have been the perfect opportunity for replenishment. Another weak point is the attempt at audience participation in which audience members were asked to write in their secret fantasies on pieces of paper collected before the show. When some answers were pulled out of a hat during a skit, very little was actually done in response, leading one to wonder why the exercise was attempted at all if improv skills are lacking. Despite these shortcomings and the occasional botched line, the show is a great deal of fun from the humorous live action pre-show announcements to the charmingly bizarre final musical number.
The No Rules Sketch Show is perfect for a date night or an evening out with friends – so find a companion and make plans to go see this before it’s gone!
It must be noted that this is not a show for children.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
The No Rules Sketch Show plays through May 17, 2015 at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, Virginia. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at (703) 820-9771 or online: